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The DNA Technology (Regulation) Bill

Recently, the DNA Technology (Regulation) Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha to regulate the use of DNA technology for establishing the identity of a person.

What are the provisions of the bill?

1. Establishment of National and Regional DNA Data Bank.

2. Every data bank would have indices such as the crime scene index, suspects’ or undertrials’ index, offenders’ index, missing persons’ index and unknown deceased persons’ index.

3. Establishment of DNA Regulatory Board which accredits labs analysing DNA samples.

4. Written consent by individuals is mandatory before collection of their DNA samples and creating a DNA profile of an individual.

5. However, consent is not required for offences with punishment for more than seven years in jail or death.

Deletion of DNA profile from Data banks:

1. DNA profiles of the suspect may be removed on the filing of a police report or court order.

2. DNA profiles of undertrials may be removed based on a court order.

How is DNA profiling done?

About DNA

1. Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), is a hereditary complex molecule present in humans and almost all other organisms.

2. Nearly every cell in multicellular organisms possesses the full set of DNAs required for those organisms.

3. Most DNA molecules consist of two bio-polymer strands coiled around each other to form a double helix.

4. Each nuclear stand is made up of four chemical bases – adenine (A), guanine (G) cytosine (C), and thymine (T).

5. It also has a sugar called deoxyribose and phosphate group; these nuclear strands create a protein that is needed for the cell.

6. DNA contains all the information that is necessary to build and maintain an organism including biological information.

7. Although 99.9% of human DNA sequences are the same in every person, some of the DNA are unique, that makes it possible to distinguish one individual from another.

8. DNA can be extracted from the saliva in the mouth, blood samples, hair follicle, or even from nail scraping etc.

Why DNA profiling is important?

1. DNA profiling is a process that categorises an individual’s characteristics.

2. It is most commonly used as a forensic technique to identify a person in solving heinous crimes.

3. It is also effective in identifying disaster victims, missing people and identification of parents.

4. It can also be used in civil cases such as surrogacy, maternity/paternity cases, organ transplantation and migrations.

When did India start to use DNA samples as evidence?

1. Courts started to accept the DNA profile-based evidence since 1985.

2. In 2016 Andhra Pradesh becomes the first state in India to start DNA profiling to stop crime.

Who recommended the law for DNA profiling?

1. The DNA Technology (Regulation) Bill was framed based on the recommendation of the Department of Biotechnology, observation of law commission and ISFG guidelines

2. In 2005, a committee was set up by the Department of Biotechnology and drafted a Human DNA bill which faced criticism from the civil society and NGOs due to privacy concerns.

3. In 2017, The Law Commission, examined the various provisions of the bill, judicial verdicts and observed that

a. DNA profiling can be used in victim identification, crime investigation, identification of missing persons and for medical research purposes.

b. It also flagged the privacy concerns that ethics involved in the collection of data were very high.

c. The procedure for DNA profiling should be done legitimately according to the constitutional provisions.

4. DNA commission instituted by the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) has issued guidelines regarding DNA profiling as below

a. Forensic DNA lab needs permission before taking a DNA sample of an injured or deceased person.

c. Name of the officer present at the time of sample collection must be clearly mentioned.

d. Guarantee of keeping investigation and collection private.

e. Proper maintenance to be ensured.

What are the concerns about the bill?

1. The bill permits collection of the DNA of undertrials without the court orders which raises privacy concerns.

2. There are concerns that the bill will institutionalise a surveillance state without a Data protection law be put in place safeguarding the privacy.

Where else DNA profiling is legal?

1. All the countries including India follow the ISFG guidelines on DNA profiling.

2. It is legal in about 60 countries including in Argentina, USA, China, Britain and Canada. While, in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Austria it is done only in case of serious crimes.

Source: RSTV